Moderna considers Senegal, Rwanda, and S.Africa

Senegal, Rwanda, and South Africa are among the potential locations Moderna will consider for its planned vaccine factory in Africa.

So says the U.S. drug maker's chairmanNoubar Afeyan, as the search for a site is ramped up.

"I can confirm that they could be potential candidates for the plants."

Moderna said last week it would build a plant in Africa to produce up to 500 million vaccine doses a year, including it's COVID-19 shot.

Pressure has been growing on pharmaceutical companies to manufacture drugs in low income countries.

Afeyan, a biochemical engineer who co-founded Moderna in 2010, said he wouldn't comment further on potential locations as the selection process is ongoing.

"But what I can say that what matters to us most is the conditions under which we could operate. That is, the health care system that the presence of trained folks who can actually at least help us on some of the clinical testing that needs to be done. So it has to be some proficiency in that area, and we know several countries that already have good health care systems and quite a lot of interest in working on this, so we will find partners and and as the announcement said, last week we will make the major investment we expect up to $500 million to be invested by us to set up this facility."

South Africa has a medical research capacity and a domestic pharmaceutical industry, Senegal's Pasteur Institute produces yellow fever vaccines, and Rwanda has also expressed interest in making vaccines and drugs.

Some North African countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, have pharmaceutical industries as well.

Public health and government officials in Africa welcomed Moderna's news last week.

But they've also said the plant won't address the continent's urgent need for coronavirus vaccines now.

Speaking after the announcement Africa's top public health official Dr John Nkengasong noted that under 5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated.

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